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BlackBerry UK boss: "Rebranding is one of the most obvious things for us to do"

BusinessFeatures
by James Laird
, 02 Feb 2013Features
BlackBerry UK boss: "Rebranding is one of the most obvious things for us to do"

Along with the arrival of Sony's Xperia Z handset at CES, the launch of BlackBerry 10 stands out as one of the first true watershed moments in the technology world this year.

The Canadian firm unveiled its latest platform earlier this week alongside two new flagship handsets, the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10, and called a surprise play by announcing the retirement of the Research In Motion moniker in favour of a single, fruit-themed brand.

Of course, the jury is still out over BB10, but for what it's worth we've been impressed with how the Z10 matches up against the likes of Apple's iPhone 5. We're currently enjoying putting the device through its paces in more detail, but in the meantime, we also took advantage of the opportunity to speak with BlackBerry's MD for the UK and Ireland, Rob Orr.

"I loved it. It was a fantastic day," enthused a still-buzzing Orr as we sat down in Soho.

We put a number of questions to Orr over the course of our interview, and while he refused to speak in too much detail about the company's future, he seemed optimistic that BlackBerry 10 would prove a hit with consumers.

"I personally have done about five or six hundred demonstrations over the last few months. The excitement levels are there. In the UK, I have eight million customers today - active BlackBerry users from a cross-section of different segments. Consumer, business and higher end enterprise, government - they've all seen the product in some form. And the excitement levels are really, really high," Orr said.

"I've got very good feelings, let's put it that way."

On the move

Orr was unable to provide us with many specifics regarding BlackBerry's future product plans, so we only know that the QWERTY-rocking Q10 will arrive in "due course"; however, we did manage to prise a juicy nugget of information regarding BB10's potential deployment on the PlayBook.

Echoing recent comments made by company CEO Thorsten Heins, Orr confirmed that BlackBerry 10 will be coming to the firm's popular tablet offering, adding that the new platform would soon feature on entry-level and mid-range handsets as well.

"We're moving from the era of mobile communications to mobile computing. Mobile computing will take many forms. BlackBerry 10, we will bring it eventually to PlayBook," Orr commented.

"BlackBerry 10 will provide devices for all segments of the marketplace. Beyond that, we're verging into forward facing roadmap territory and obviously we're not going to go there."

Pressed for further details about what a BB10 PlayBook might look like - will it be a new product or simply a refresh? - Orr encouraged us to "wait and see" what tricks the company had up its sleeve for 2013 and beyond.

A fine Balance

Moving on to the subject of BlackBerry's enduring popularity amongst enterprise users, Orr seemed willing to talk more freely. He was especially keen to highlight the benefits of BB10's unique Balance interface, which allows users to toggle between consumer and business modes on the same handset.

"All enterprise users are consumers. One of the challenges for us has been, we've given the IT department such strength in the toolkit to lock the device down, that the consumer who is also the enterprise employee doesn't get to enjoy that functionality. So BlackBerry Balance allows the IT department to lock one half of the device as a corporate deployed device and then have the other half fully open as a consumer device," he said.

"It's this nirvana of a device that has all that consumer content – the web browser, all the apps, all the movies, all the games – but it's still a device that the corporation can manage effectively. We're moving forward into an era where consumer power in the enterprise has changed dramatically."

Security, it follows, remains one of the cornerstones of the BlackBerry philosophy - and Orr was keen to highlight the firm's deep-rooted expertise.

"BlackBerry 10 has been the work of 20 years for our company. You don't learn all about corporate security overnight. It's not something that you can just pick up a manual and understand. We have always had that trusted relationship – we're trusted as a platform. It's something we will never, never ever let go of."

"We've always been BlackBerry"

Our discussion neared its end with some general ruminations on the company's bold decision to ditch the RIM brand. It was a move that took many observers by surprise, but for BlackBerry's UK MD, it was an obvious decision.

"We've always been BlackBerry. The rebranding of the company – as we've gone through this process of change in the last 12 months, it's actually one of the most obvious things for us to do. In many markets around the world, including the UK, we're known as BlackBerry. It just makes an awful lot of sense and makes it very clear what our intentions are," Orr opined.

Ultimately, those intentions may include licensing out BlackBerry 10 to third-party manufacturers, an idea that investors in particular are thought to be keen on. 

Orr didn't go so far as to confirm OS licensing was an active part of the firm's current strategy, but did seem to hint that it was a distinct possibility.

"Since Thorsten took the reins last January, he's been very clear that he's undertaking a significant review of the company and how the company operates, who we are and what we do," he concluded.

"The company is super-focused on building the BlackBerry 10 platform and launching the first handsets, which we're in the process of doing. Looking at the possibilities for the future is something that we'll continue to do. Beyond that, we haven't made any decisions."

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